Panthers drop games to Missouri State, Drake

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TONI FORTMANN

The UNI women’s basketball team dropped two tough Missouri Valley Conference games, falling on the road to Missouri State and at home against Drake.

DAVID WARRINGTON

This past Sunday, the UNI women’s basketball team hit the road, traveling to JQH Arena in Springfield, Mo. to take on the Missouri State Lady Bears. Both teams entered the game near the top of the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) standings, and it was a game destined to have a large impact on how the regular season conference race pans out. UNI played well against a tough opponent, but good free throw shooting down the stretch sealed the game for the Lady Bears.

Baskets were very hard to come by in the opening period for the Panthers. Missouri State scored 13 of the first 16 points and led it 13-3 with three minutes to go in the opening quarter. Karli Rucker did manage to knock down a three-pointer at the buzzer, and the Lady Bears led 15-8 after the opening frame. The Panthers looked like a completely different team coming into the second quarter, going on an 8-1 run capped off by a Cynthia Wolf three-pointer to take their first lead of the game at 18-16. The teams traded blows the rest of the quarter until Rucker hit a jumper to give UNI a one-point lead at the half, 29-28.

The third quarter looked like more of the same. Every time one team would score, the opposition would quickly respond. Both teams struggled to get any separation, and going into the fourth quarter the Lady Bears led by just two, 45-43. Missouri State came into the fourth quarter ready to go, starting on a 10-1 run and taking a 55-44 lead. The Panthers tried to close the gap, but some timely free throws sealed the game, giving Missouri State the win, 66-57.

Rucker and Kam Finley both led the way in scoring for UNI, finishing with 14 points each. Bre Gunnels and Nicole Kroeger both did well on the boards, picking up eight and seven rebounds, respectively. The Panthers had their struggles at the free throw line, making just 13 of their 22 attempts, good for 59%.

The Panthers were back in action on Saturday, Feb. 19, hosting an in-state matchup with the Drake Bulldogs. Drake got out to a fast start, taking an 8-1 advantage and forcing UNI to call a timeout. The Panthers responded well, going on a 14-2 run to end the quarter and taking a 15-10 lead into the second period. UNI led by as many as 11 in the second, and ultimately went into the halftime break leading the Bulldogs 35-27.

The Bulldogs held UNI scoreless for a full five minutes early in the second half, going on a 15-0 run to turn a 10-point deficit into a five-point lead. Things remained tight through the rest of the third quarter, and Drake led 53-52 going into the fourth. The teams went back and forth throughout the fourth quarter, but Drake got the last run of the game, scoring the last six to win by a final of 73-68.

Rucker led the way offensively for UNI, finishing with 19 points. Gunnels also finished in double figures for the Panthers, pitching in 13 points. Grace Boffeli had a nice game on the boards, grabbing a team-best 10 rebounds.

With the losses, UNI falls to 16-9 on the season and 9-5 in the MVC. They remain in fourth place in the conference standings, but the gap between them and the top three teams has widened with the losses. They will be back in the McLeod Center for their next two games, starting with a matchup against Bradley on Friday, Feb. 25, as well as a senior day meeting with Illinois State on Sunday, Feb. 27.